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A Night of Inspiration & Influence Awards Ceremony Celebrates Area Women

It’s not every day that we celebrate the local women in our communities who are doing influential and inspirational things. However, it is every day that women in the Greater Lansing area are doing something to help better the community. That’s why Capital Area Women’s LifeStyle Magazine (CAWLM) and the Aitch Foundation came together to honor the local women in the region who are doing great things at the 2018 Inspiration & Influence Awards on Oct. 18. A night filled with community, celebration and inspiration became one to remember for all who were in attendance. 

This year’s hosts, Tiffany Dowling, president and CEO of M3 Group and publisher of CAWLM, and Lauren Aitch, president of the Aitch Foundation, were two that truly live up to the motto of this event: “Inspire, impact, imagine and influence change in our communities.” Aitch is an active member in the community and leads the Aitch Foundation in its many community-based activities.

The Aitch Foundation is dedicated to changing lives through the advancement of cancer research while generating community involvement through sports- and fashion-related events. Each year, the Aitch Foundation awards the Aitch Prize, which goes to an individual who has contributed significantly to the fight in conquering cancer.

This year’s Aitch Prize winner went to someone who dedicated her life to improving women’s health and fought to ensure all women had access to the care needed to figh against cancer. This award was given posthumously to Maxine Berman, who has been described as “an irreverent, brilliant and sassy warrior for women, for education and for health care.” Although she has passed on, her impact lives on.

Another inspirational point of the evening was the keynote speaker, Laura Grannemann. She is truly one who inspires and impacts change. Grannemann is vice president of strategic investments for the Quicken Loans Community Investments Fund. She leads projects that help bring together the community. Grannemann and her team’s work has impacted tens of thousands of Detroit residents, allowing families to stay in their homes, become homeowners, and build equity and opportunity.  

Grannemann’s passion is something the four other awardees can relate to. There were four women recognized for the influential change they are making within our communities.

Up and Coming Award

Sami Chau, a woman who actively engages with several organizations, embodies what it means to give back. Chau works in a nonprofit organization and still finds time to give back to other causes she’s passionate about. She is deeply committed to pursuing knowledge and experience. Chau was brought from the United Kingdom to Lansing through her work with AmeriCorps, where she immediately fell in love with the work she is
doing and feels blessed to be surrounded by amazing people.

She truly sees the bigger picture of community. When a group she helped found, Habitat for Humanity Young Professionals, went head to head with Ingham County Animal Shelter for a grant and won, Chau suggested they use that momentum to build dog houses for the shelter so that both parties could benefit from the grant. Chau is truly helping to build a better community for all.

When asked what this award means to her, Chau replied: “It means it’s a stepping stone to bigger and better things. It’s an inspiration to continue building up this community.”


Caring about Women Locally

Amy Stephenson and Lysne Tait are two women who work together for one cause. They are not only impacting change, but they are making a difference. These women saw a need within the community and put their best efforts forward to fix it. They are volunteers, innovators and supporters of various projects throughout the Lansing area.

“We do it because it needs to be done. That’s why we started it. We knew it needed to be fixed,” Tait explained.

Stephenson and Tait went above and beyond to care for local women when they founded Helping Women Period, an organization that provides menstrual products to homeless and low-income women. Both women are executive directors of Helping Women Period. Together they put forth their collective skills, experiences and business affiliations to support the growth of their organization.

“It’s an incredible honor. There is good work being done in the Lansing area,” Stephenson said.

Judges’ Impact Award

Megan Doherty is positively impacting economic change in the Greater Lansing area. She is president and CEO of F.D. Hayes Electric Co. and is on the apprenticeship and interview committee for Women in Skilled Trades. Shepushes for the betterment of women and is making an influential impression for women.

“It’s an honor to be recognized in the community as someone who is helping and promoting women in skilled trades,” Doherty said.

She has dedicated her life and her career to helping the women around her. She is actively involved in a number of groups and organizations that work to better the position of women and families in our communities.


Woman of the Year

Shari Montgomery is a woman who truly inspires. She owned her own business, Pollack Glass Co., in a male-dominated field for 16 years. She made it through the economic recession and decided to leave the corporate world to start her own nonprofit, the House of Promise. The organization engages in rescuing and rehabilitating female sex-trafficking victims. This organization is Montgomery’s purpose, and it is her endeavor to give back to the community to help make the world a better place.

Montgomery’s motivation has always been to make a difference through sacrifice and she aims to make a change in the community and beyond. Her passion became her life’s pursuit.

“It (this award) lets me know I am on the right track. It’s given me a boost that I can’t give up now, I have to keep going. I now know I have women behind me to get this done,” Montgomery said.